From times in memorial Baranas or Varanasi, the ancient holy city of India, has possessed a spiritual quality not found at other places. Even today the devotion of the pilgrims at the Ghats in the early hours of the morning or at dawn, is a unique sight. They offer prayers to Sun God and bathe in the holy river at the Ghats. Picturesquely situated on the crescent of shaped left bank of the Ganges it has a strange sense of elevation, which has a powerful appeal. Varanasi, a city of 1000 temples, also called Kashi or light by the Devout.
The city is popular not only for its religious appeal but also for education. Some of its famous places of interest are as:
Banaras Hindu University – This is perhaps the largest residential and one of the oldest Indian Universities. It is built on an area of about 2000 acres founded by Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya. It is a great seat of oriental learning. The University was started as a center of education in Sanskrit, Indian Art, Music and Culture.
Alamgir Mosque – It was originally a Vishnu Temple erected in the early 17th century but was destroyed by Emperor Aurangzeb, a mosque being raised on the same site. The lower portions and the enclosure walls are of entirely Hindu design and the mosque is Islamic.
Bharat Mata Temple – This reflects the spirit of patriotism. It is a novel temple dedicated to Mother India, which instead of the customary Gods and Goddesses, houses one of the most perfect relief maps if India carved out of marble. Mahatama Gandhi, Father of Nation, inaugurated it.
Durga Temple – Dedicated to Hindu Goddesses Durga, the consort of Lord Shiva, it is one of the important temples of the city.
Vishnanath or The Golden Temple – Rani Alahilya Bai Holkar of Indore erected this temple in 1776 A.D. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva, the patron deity of Banaras. This temple is adjacent to the old temple, which was destroyed and converted into the Gyanappi mosque by Emperor Aurangzeb. The gold platings on the Shikhars were by Maharaja Singh in 1835 A.D.
Tulsi Manas Temple – It commemorates the spot where the saint Tulsidas lived and composed the epic Ramcharit Manas. The entire text is inscribed on the marble walls inside the temple.
Sarnath – The hallowed spot where Lord Buddha preached his first sermon after enlightenment. He converted the five ascetics who had followed him. Later in the 3rd century B.C., Ashoka raised a number of Stupas, monasteries and Viharas. Soon it became a cradle of Buddhism.
The River Front – The most fascinating aspect of Varanasi is life at the riverfront at dawn. Many Hindu pilgrims come here for the holy dip and offer salutations to the Sun God.
Varanasi has till now and will always represent Indian religious sentiments. The aura may not be the same as before yet tourists visit Banaras with the same spirit and interest.